Remember back in my Automating Paragraph and Hanging Indentation posts when I said there was a wrong way to indent? I talked about indenting, and how the use of proportional fonts made indenting things with spaces a bad idea. This is because of something called kerning.


Kerning is the spacing between letters. Previously, when we were using non-proportional fonts, like Courier, each letter took up the same amount of space as every other letter, whether it was a skinny little l or a big old w. As you can imagine, that meant it looked a little clumsy when printed, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 5.59.21 PM

Whereas proportional fonts, like the one this blog is displayed in, or like Times New Roman, base the amount of space each letter takes up on how wide they are. This means that the fonts are more pleasant to read, in part because of kerning, or adjusting the amount of space between each letter, like so:

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 5.59.31 PM

Why does this matter? Well…there’s a way to use kerning to be a little sneaky.

Let’s say that your professor has given you an essay assignment, but rather than giving you a word count, they’ve given you a page count. You can only submit ten pages.

Except you’re one of those students who uses insanely long words. You’re being penalized for your vocabulary! That’s not fair, and and one thing Banger has is an absolutely overdeveloped “justice gland.” (Another thing she has is a ridiculous vocabulary, hence maybe possibly using this little trick herself just a few times shhhhh we don’t mention this in public.)

Anyway, back to your paper. You can submit ten pages, but you have eleven, and that’s edited down from twelve or thirteen. What are you to do?

We’re learning about kerning, baby. 

Your professor may set what font and size you may use, and they may specify MLA or APA format, which means your margins are set. However, you can change the way your font works on the page in almost undetectable ways.

I’ve created a sample document and generated 455 words of Lorem Ipsum. They just break onto the second page of my Word document in Times New Roman 12pt font, with 1″ margins top, bottom, left, and right. Let’s see if we can make all that fit on one page:

First, highlight all of your document by hitting ctrl-a (Windows) or command-a (Mac). Then, go to font properties. On a Mac, that is done by clicking on Format, then Font.

Format, Font

That will open font properties, which looks the same on both Windows and Macs.

Font Properties Main

Then, click on Advanced, then spacing, and select condensed.

Now comes the fun part: Click into the space where it says “By,” and type in .1, then hit return. If your paper has shrunk enough to hit your page count, you’re done.

For my Lorem Ipsum text to fit on one page, I had to use .2. You may need to experiment, but as long as you can keep the number under about .5, few people will notice. Very few people indeed. Here are my text at normal kerning on top, and condensed by .4 on the bottom. Would you notice?

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.34.23 PM

I know, pretty awesome, right? Now, what I will ask is that you don’t use this to torture your poor professors, but if you absolutely, positively need to fit a few more words on a page and you’ve done your best to edit, kerning is your friend.

And you are welcome. 😉


Kerning: Outwitting Page Counts when you’re Wordy — No Comments

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